There is no protection under the First Amendment’s freedom of speech for a teacher while on duty for advocating opting out of standardized testing for students.
That is how the letter from our state union started, and I suppose I should not have been shocked by it. I know that I accepted a contract with my school system, and my school system whole-heartedly supports lots of testing.
Similarly, there is little, if any, constitutional protections for a teacher advocating opting out while off duty.
That is how the letter continued, and I was shocked by that…but I should not have been. It’s fair for McDonalds to fire a manager who on her day off attends rallies supporting the end of fast food, and wears a “Stop McDonalds” t-shirt to the beach. I get that. I do. I will put away my “Stop Common Core T-Shirt,” take down the sign up by the road, and I suppose next year when we opt our child out of testing only my wife will sign the letter.
Since administration of the tests is a part of the teacher’s job duties, a teacher’s encouragement of opting out would be viewed by the district as being disruptive of its obligation under state law and district policy.
There are teachers who support opting out of all the standardized tests, in some schools there are many. I can assure you that for at least around her in CT, there is NO disruption in testing whatsoever that I experienced in the testing schedule that lasted for 26 days. There was a disruption of class time, schedules, lunches, being able to sign-out for the library, and no ability to sign out any computers, but that is just part of the price we pay for being given the opportunity to collect data on our kids on a test which will be used to determine….I am not sure what exactly it will determine…hmmm…I know that 60-70% of CT students will fail it. CT has already set the cut-scores before my kids took it. I guess when the results come back we will see how valuable they are. I guess when I get my kids scores I can send them with a messenger to the high school since that’s where my kids will be when I find out what they scored. I won’t be able to tell the high school teachers what they need to work on because the questions are secret.
A school district’s interest in its efficient administration of education can outweigh its public employee’s right to speak on issues of public concern.
I understand that as well. If the test were not administered efficiently they might take 36 days to finish it, or we might have to delay the start each day until all of the opt out kids leave the class. Parents and students might also begin to question other things that we do. That would mean extra meetings, and of course lead to possibly trying something new, which of course would lead to years of committee meetings.
Prohibited actions which could give rise to discipline and possible termination include but are not limited to the following actions: conversations with parents encouraging opting out, posting on school sponsored websites, posting on private websites, or handing out flyers.
I guess I will have to go through my common core posts, I will make sure I do not leave comments on other sites that question school policies, and if a parent asks me about the test and opting out, I will simply answer with the response that sbac script told me to use with kids, “I can’t help you, try to do the best you can.”
Given that opting out is an act of principled civil disobedience rather than an exercise of a legal right, it is better to have the CEA, with its collective force of 43,000 members, take a unified stance…
Is better to wait for the CEA to take a stance? The same union that supported the governor that said that “only thing you have to do is show up for four years…” in order to get tenure.
It is scary because it is not just about opting out. What about at department meetings? If I disagree with something there should I stay silent?
I know if someone working in the “business world” reads this they would probably be thinking it is silly to complain because anyone working for a business is supposed to support the company’s bottom line. I guess I thought teaching was different. I guess I thought I was supposed to speak up to protect the kids and not stay silent to allow for the efficient administration of education.
Maybe someone does not have a First Amendment right to speak up, but would someone be protected under Whistleblower Laws??
As set forth in General Statutes § 4-61dd, any person having knowledge of corruption, unethical practices, violation of state laws or regulations, mismanagement, gross waste of funds, abuse of authority, or danger to the public safety occurring in any state department or agency or in any quasi-public agency may disclose such matter to the state Auditors of Public Accounts.
**special note: the letter from the union was posted on a Facebook page and all quotes come directly from it. I can’t share the link to it since I do not want to appear to be supporting the site it was posted on 😉